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Fontella Bass Would Love It!

Jeep's "Rescue Green Metallic"

The 2012 Jeep Compass Latitude

Fontella Bass? I suppose you’re wondering just where this is going. Here’s a clue: This week’s test Jeep Compass had a “Dark Slate” interior (or as I call it, nearly black), and the exterior color was “Rescue Green Metallic.” Fontella Bass sang “Rescue Me” back in 1965, when it went up as high as number four on Billboard’s music chart. I’m not sure who’s in charge of naming the colors over there at Jeep, but this one is off the charts. The name is strange enough, but that color—oh my!

The Compass is Jeep’s smallest offering—for now, anyway. There’s a Fiat-based smaller Jeep in the works, which may be called Jeepster. The Compass is probably the most car-like of Jeeps, or, as Northtown Jeep General Manager Joe Erbacher called it, “civilized four wheel-drive.” And that about nails it. If you’re new to Jeep, and aren’t quite ready for the ruggedness of a Wrangler, or aren’t looking to spend Grand Cherokee money, the Compass might be right up your alley. It’s got the Jeep look, with a strong family resemblance to the Grand Cherokee. And why not? The GC, which was made-over last year, is doing very well both in sales and with the critics.

Don’t get me wrong here, the Compass is no mini-Grand Cherokee. It’s an entry-level Jeep. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but it is what it is. First off, I like the new styling. The rear is pretty much as the original Compass was, but as I said, the front has a much stronger look this year. The interior of my mid-range Latitude model was unobjectionable, but nothing special. The top-line Limited model is a bit fancier with leather, and silver-colored accents here and there. No one should object to the interior space. Although I thought entering was made a bit more difficult with what I perceived to be a high sill, there’s plenty of head- and leg room once you’re in there. Ditto for the back seat, which also reclines in addition to its 60/40 split, flat-folding feature. Latitude front passengers get the added luxury of heated seats, often only found with leather but here they are on the Latitude’s cloth seats. The controls are handy as far as reach goes, but I’m still not convinced that any kind of touch-screen is a good idea in a car. It’s fine when there’s a passenger who can futz with the radio, but when I’m by myself it’s too much of a distraction to do something as simple as find a radio station. The Latitude did have some steering wheel audio controls, but I thought the buttons on the back of the wheel for scanning through the presets were poorly placed, as, before I knew they were there, I kept inadvertently changing the station (and lot boys are notorious for picking stations that guys like me wouldn’t normally listen to).

Also included on the Latitude were: a front passenger seat which also folds flat for carrying those extra long boards or kayaks completely inside the car; CVT automatic transmission (base, or “Sport” Compasses come with a five-speed manual as standard equipment); a height-adjustable driver’s seat; leather steering wheel; remote starter; and a 115-volt power outlet. All front wheel-drive Compasses are powered by a 2.0-liter DOHC four-cylinder engine, while the four wheel-drivers’ are 2.4 liters. I thought the 2.4 liter in the test car was adequate, but certainly no stop-light racer. I also thought it was a bit noisy under acceleration. But it is EPA-rated at 21/26 miles per gallon city/highway with the automatic and 4WD. That’s not so bad. All Compasses also have A/C, fog lights, ABS, remote keyless entry. Pricing for the Sport FWD Compass starts at $19,295—add $1,750 for 4WD on all Compasses.

All-in-all, the Compass is not a bad choice for getting your Jeep feet wet. Even in Rescue Green.

More info at

Read more of Jim Corbran's You Auto Know every other week in Artvoice, and more frequently on Artvoice Daily.

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